Drinks with Al: would you drink ranch water?

I was spoilt rotten by my drinks escapades last week. It was a little slice of luxury after a long haul of illness.

As you may have previously read, the festivities kicked off on Saturday night with a visit to a new bar in Newport called Sundial Tapas Restaurant. It’s an interesting concept – you put cash on a special plastic card and then head over to a wall of wines kept in special fridges at optimum temperatures. You slide the card in a slot above the wine you want, then select whether you want a taste, a standard glass or a large serve. A little nozzle pours it into your glass and off you go.

We tried a few of the wines on offer while nibbling on a ploughman’s platter.

On Wednesday, I walked out of work and stepped into a shiny black town car to be driven to Poly Wine Bar in Surry Hills for a Diageo World Class dinner. Fortunately my hearing had finally returned by then – following my ear infection saga – because the place was absolutely jumping.

The event kicked off with a delicious cocktail containing Don Julio Reposado, burnt grape shrub and Yuzu Shu. Then we were treated to starters including BBQ oyster with tequila butter, divine grilled potato bread and baked potato hummus. Mmmmmm.

That was followed by fried potato cubes with salted egg sauce, tuna tartare with miso trout roe and celery caesar salad. They were matched with a cocktail containing Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Cikuma Nishiki Sake and lemon myrtle honey.

Main was smoked wagyu rib eye, roast cauliflower with labneh and hazelnut and a mixed leaf salad. The matching cocktail was Ketel One Vodka with Gulbarn tea, apple muntries and green cardamon.

To finish there was tequila fudge mille feuille and smoked banana skin flan. The cocktail was Talisker 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky, wattle seed, Belsazar dry, Belsazar red and maraschino liqueur.

It was all insanely gooooood. And I know it sounds like a lot of cocktails, but I was so busy talking that I only got to sip a few mouthfuls of each one. Well, I drank the whole first one (pictured above) because it was very yum.

I had bulk fun discussing drinks industry news with the Head of Reserve Brands at Diageo, a lovely bloke called Jonathan, who may have regretted mentioning to me that “tequila seltzers” were becoming a thing. They’re also known as “ranch water”, which I wrote about over at Drinks Digest recently. I think it’s such a cool term for a drink. Diageo just bought the biggest ranch water brand in the US, Lone River.

What the hell is ranch water, you ask? It’s a Texan cocktail popular with cowboys that’s recently become a canned sensation. The drink is the tequila version of a highball – it’s traditionally made by mixing a bottle of Topo Chico sparkling mineral water (a Mexican brand) with a splash of tequila and a squeeze of lime.

I think Jonathan was a little startled by my depth of knowledge on such an obscure topic. You can read my full ranch water article here.

I pondered in the article – and to Jonathan – whether “ranch water” is too American to work in the Aussie market. Jonathan reckons there is still a bit of ‘that won’t work here’ mentality that creeps into conversations, “but the speed of adoption of global trends and US trends by Aussie consumers seems to accelerate more and more”. So watch this space!

I came home from sipping World Class cocktails to discover the most gorgeous basket of goodies from Angove’s Naturalis range on my doorstep, everything from wine to flowers, stemless glasses, a picnic rug and a cheese board.

Naturalis is a Certified Organic wine range made by the South Australian winemaker exclusively for independent bottle shops and on-premise restaurants and venues.

Angove is Australia’s No.1 organic winery – it began its organic wine journey in 2006 as it looked for a better way to care for and manage its extensive vineyards and be more sustainable with its winemaking. I particularly love that they use Indian Runner ducks rather than pesticides in their Warboys Vineyard in McLaren Vale to control snails that make their way into the vine canopy and eat the grapes.

The wines in the Naturalis brand include a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. A new sparkling has also been released and was sent for me to try, along with the picnic essentials – I’m looking forward to popping the cork this weekend.

On Thursday I sipped a glass of rose for lunch at Charlie & Franks with the deputy editor of Organic Gardener magazine to toast three lovely months working together at Next Media. We both ordered the fish tacos – battered barramundi, avocado, corn and jalapeno salsa, pickled cabbage, chipotle mayo – which were delicious. I was too shy to take a photo so you’ll have to make do with a takeaway one I stole from the restaurant’s Instagram.

This weekend promises to be much more low-key. Just a glass or two of wine with DD and putting my feet in the deliciously warm surf (the water temperature was 24C yesterday), as I can’t submerge my head yet due to my dodgy ears.

I am deeply envious of my sister, who is spending her Easter sipping cocktails on gorgeous Rottnest Island in Western Australia and posting drool-worthy pics on Facebook.

If you fancy whipping yourself up an Easter cocktail, I’ve compiled a selection of 9 luscious ones over at Drinks Digest. Click here to take a look.

And finally, I got very excited yesterday when I discovered that Lady Gaga is the new face of Dom Perignon champagne. It’s going to be VERY out there, going by the initial publicity material. Click here to ready all the wacky details.


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